Letter from Opa to Grandmother, August 20, 1944.
Another week is over, a quiet, uneventful week; just a typical St. John week; BUT: a few things happened anyhow. Now I know, and I am afraid Fetzer knows, that Tom Doeppner will never be worth anything in truck-driving. Last night, I took the pick-up to Stafford for the sole and only purpose to get a bite to eat. Knowing that the radiator was leaking, I filled it with water before I left, took a three-gallon can of water along. Before reaching Stafford, I had emptied this can and still the radiator was thirsty as though it had been in the Sahara for three months with "nor any drop to drink." Arriving in Stafford, the motor steamed all over like a singing tea-kettle, so I proceeded to fill it with water at a filling station. It had gotten too hot, though, and the cold water caused strains in the engine with the result that the motor head cracked at five different places and all but one exhaust gaskets were broken. Water kept running into the motor, and only with the help of the gods and of the all-the-way-pulled-out choke did I manage to return to St. John. To fix the thing cost the company over fifty bucks. Later I found out that, had I filled the thing with water slowly while the motor was running, the whole thing could have been avoided. Fetzer wasn't exactly happy about the deal, and he had no hesitations telling me so. I offered to pay for the deal but he won't let me.
Glory hallelujah!! Our checks came today. Let me know immediately if you need money, and I will send you anything you want (up to sixty bucks.) If you need it right away, I can wire it to you.
I felt a little blue last night after that deal with the pickup, so I decided to take myself feel better. Possibilities were (1) to get drunk, (2) to go to Lawrence, (3) to go to the library and get a book on philosophy. The first choice was rejected on account of its only temporary effect. The second choice was rejected on account of its practical and mercenary impossibilities; the third choice was accepted, and I got Plato's Dialogues, a work which I used to enjoy in my younger days. It really is good, though, even though I heartily disagree with many of his ideas. You ought to read it sometime. I also found another of Bertrand Russell's books, "Why Men Fight." I haven't started reading it yet; just glanced through it; apparently a thorough investigation of the human and sociologic sources of war in general. Ought to make good reading for next week.
How's Skunkie? Did you tell him about his future master yet? Better give him a good warning so the shock won't be too great.
I spent most of the afternoon going through my files and rereading old letters from way back; makes you feel a little dizzy; especially when I read my mother's letters. Suppose there will again be a time when I can write her once a week like I used to when I first came here? She used to worry when my letters came one day late. Wonder how much she worries now.
Also, I wrote another letter to the Canadian consul (or rather American Consul to Canada) and sent him some of the dope I received. Things are going to take pretty long I fear, but there is plenty of time.
Some of the restaurants have opened again, but I'm getting awfully sick of restaurant food. Guess I'll either rent an apartment, or get married, or go on a hunger strike. Haven't decided yet.
Outside it's raining and storming and thundering and lightening and... no, 'taint hailingyit. Anyhow, it seems as though Sunday is the only day at which it rains in St. John. Bob and I had planned on painting the inside of our truck and repainting it's hood today, but I guess we have to postpone it.
No letter from you today, but I can't complain because I know that you didn't get any from me two days in a row. (I had a good excuse, though.)
I think I found a second-best man for our wedding: Buck, our surveyor. He is an awfully nice kid, even though not favored with an excess of brains. However, he is the only one on the crew outside of Bob with whom I have become a little more personal.
A slap for Skunkie, a kiss for you,
So many good little nuggets in here.
Poor Opa, he's not had much luck with driving and auto-care. This letter gives me some insight to his life in a way some of the others haven't though. When faced with a crappy day, what does Opa choose? Philosophy books. I thought that his reasoning behind not choosing to get drunk was surprisingly profound. What if I applied that principle to most of my choices? Does it only have a temporary effect? Obviously some good things come in temporary form, but it is a helpful gauge when seeking out comfort. Will a gallon of ice cream or alcohol help, or will a good long talk with a friend have more permanent effect?
The fact that my Opa was so into philosophy is so unexpected. I grew up thinking he was more of a math and science person, which he was, but he was in the class of folks who explored those concepts philosophically as well. Folks like his hero Einstein were also dabbling into metaphysics and the like. I wish he had been able to engage in philosophical conversations with me when I was majoring in it in college.
In the process of going through and providing the necessary documents for the Canadian consul, he's pulled up old letters. (He's trying to leave the US and come back via a Canadian port so he can change from a temporary visa to a permanent one that has the possibility of eventual citizenship.) The old letters include those from his mother, who he said would worry if his weekly letters were one day late. He speaks of his mother with a certain level of confidence that she is still alive. I wonder if he even gave himself the space to consider that she may not have been.
He's still talking wedding, but we don't have much of an update on that yet.